On Stage: Reviews

Review: Moonlight and Magnolias

The writers of Seinfeld used to point out that the show’s great strength was that the characters learnt nothing from their escapades.

In this rip-roaring production at the SJT there’s plenty happening, and some serious issues are tackled head on. But does David O Selznick emerge changed from being locked in a room for five days with his writer and director? I suspect not. He seems to take a line of all’s well that ends well, and of course that’s one thing we can rely on in this tale of the making of Gone With the Wind. It did end well, careers were saved, and the studio covered itself in glory.

That’s far from the picture as the play opens. Selznick, played with great panache by Kieran Buckeridge, is in a panic. He’s just sacked the director, and the script is a stinker. The most expensive film ever is dead in the water. He calls in his old pals Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming to rescue the project from disaster.
Hollywood luvvieness is pierced wittily as the trio by turns gush praise for eachother, then rail against hack workers and washed up execs. There’s hilarity and some great one-liners and double takes as the heat and exhaustion take their toll on reality.

The key issue of racism comes to the fore midway when Hecht (John Killoran), Jewish as is Selznick, puts his foot down over the script’s insistence on Scarlett O’Hara slapping the black maid. The trio eventally resolve that one, but could they really emerge as before from their banana-fuelled lock-in? Well, maybe they did. After all, that’s showbiz.
Janis Bright

Moonlight and Magnolias runs at the SJT until 27 June

Moonlight and Magnolias

The writers of Seinfeld used to point out that the show’s great strength was that the characters learnt nothing from their escapades.

In this rip-roaring production at the SJT there’s plenty happening, and some serious issues are tackled head on. But does David O Selznick emerge changed from being locked in a room for five days with his writer and director? I suspect not. He seems to take a line of all’s well that ends well, and of course that’s one thing we can rely on in this tale of the making of Gone With the Wind. It did end well, careers were saved, and the studio covered itself in glory.

That’s far from the picture as the play opens. Selznick, played with great panache by Kieran Buckeridge, is in a panic. He’s just sacked the director, and the script is a stinker. The most expensive film ever is dead in the water. He calls in his old pals Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming to rescue the project from disaster.
Hollywood luvvieness is pierced wittily as the trio by turns gush praise for eachother, then rail against hack workers and washed up execs. There’s hilarity and some great one-liners and double takes as the heat and exhaustion take their toll on reality.

The key issue of racism comes to the fore midway when Hecht (John Killoran), Jewish as is Selznick, puts his foot down over the script’s insistence on Scarlett O’Hara slapping the black maid. The trio eventally resolve that one, but could they really emerge as before from their banana-fuelled lock-in? Well, maybe they did. After all, that’s showbiz.
Janis Bright
 

Review: Haunting Julia

If you go along to an Ayckbourn play for laughs then you’re in for a big surprise – in more ways than one. Haunting Julia concerns the aftermath of a suicide by a 19-year-old musical genius – the eponymous Julia – and the attempts of three men to come to terms with her death.

The central astonishing pillar of this production is the performance of Ian Hogg as the bereaved father Joe. His refusal to accept that his daughter took her own life 12 years previously – ‘Why would she, she had so much to live for . . .’ – his anguished search for the ‘truth’, and his attempts to reach his daughter’s undead spirit, all render him as the classic hero of tragedy. By turns courageous, pathetic, bullying and wheedling, Joe’s character is gradually revealed, and with it his domineering relationship to his daughter.

The counterfoil to Joe is provided by Andy (Richard Stacey), Julia’s boyfriend at the time of her death, who accepts her suicide and whose life has moved on. The tense relationship between the two is exacerbated by Joe’s introduction of Ken, a psychic, into the mix.

At this point the play becomes in part a ghost story, and it is the task of the writer and director to bring together the pain and bewilderment of bereavement with the chills and thrills of the supernatural. Thanks in no small part to the strength of the cast, they manage to pull it off – and give the audience a few shocks along the way.

The way in which the tale and characters are revealed, and the way they play off each other, must place this piece among Ayckbourn’s strongest writing.

But it is Ian Hogg’s Joe that remains in the memory, and the difficulty parents have in letting their children go into the world, loved but unimpeded.  
Roger Osborne

Haunting Julia plays at the SJT throughout July as part of the Things That Go Bump trilogy.

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